By   December 21, 2007

I’m off to the US for Christmas! We’re leaving here at 7 am, and I will finally get to my parent’s house around 10 pm (4 am French time). ::sigh:: Thank you stupid Lufthansa for changing my flight times after I chose the times I wanted and paid for the ticket. Why are airlines allowed to do that?? Anyway…

Joyeuses Fêtes tout le monde !

C’est pas TERrible.

By   December 17, 2007

This summer, SNCF introduced new tickets for the TER trains. They are the size of a credit card, so they waste less paper and are easier to carry. However, they are nearly impossible to “composter” in the darn yellow machines. I have to shove my ticket in at least 3 times before it will work; that is, if it does work at all. The composteurs were made for the regular size tickets that you get from the ticket counter or the yellow automatic machines, not for these tiny little pieces of frustration. It doesn’t matter how many times you serre your ticket a gauche, or turn it around, it just beeps at you endlessly.

I’ve been noticing a lot of composteurs en panne lately, in about 5 different stations. Hmm, coincidence? I think not. The station near my work only has two machines, and neither one worked for over 2 months. So we had to wait in line at the counter and get our tickets stamped. Annoying! And now, every single machine in Annecy is hors service. Every single one.

So in rebellion, I was going to continue buying regular tickets from the yellow machines regardless of how much paper it wastes. Oh, but I can’t because with the recent schedule changes between Annecy and my work, I always have to change trains in La-Roche-sur-Foron, which means NO TRAINS show up on the yellow machines because they’re not direct trajets. So I am forced to buy these stupid little TER tickets and swear at the composteurs for not accepting them.

At least I don’t have to ride another train until 2008!

La neige dans les montagnes

By   December 15, 2007

I took advantage of the new double-decker trains to take better pictures of the mountains on my way to work this week. It’s been getting a lot colder here lately and there’s snow on the mountains, but not in the valleys. I love seeing snow in one field, but green grass in the one just below:

Only two more days of work, then two days of packing, and I’ll be back in the US for Christmas. There had better be plenty of snow and Christmas decorations everywhere!

Visite médicale, times two

By   December 12, 2007

I went to Grenoble today for a medical visit required by the préfecture (or else no new carte de séjour). I had done the exact same thing last year when I first arrived in France, so at least I knew what to expect. But still, wasting 20 € and an entire day just to get a chest x-ray is rather annoying.

It took me 3 hours to get to the ANAEM office (bus, train, tram, walking), which was closed upon my arrival anyway. So I had to stand outside for 30 minutes trying not to freeze to death (why was it so ridiculously windy today?)

I recognized the same nurse and doctor as the previous year. I even had the same weight (you don’t want to know) and same bad left eye (I swear I got new contacts!). The doctor was just as inquisitive as before – Is Bush really as dumb as people say he is? Who do you think will be the next American president? Thank goodness Bush can’t be president for a third term!

20 minutes later and I was out the door, precious récépissé de visite médicale in my hand. I originally thought I wanted to do some Christmas shopping in the Grand’Place mall, but after dealing with so many random (and angry) people on three forms of public transportation plus the fact that I couldn’t stop shivering even indoors, I just wanted to go home and be warm.

I don’t know why, but Grenoble doesn’t impress me. Every time I go there, I find it dirty and bland; just like any other big city with old buildings. But that could be because every time I go there, it’s for les démarches administratives and nothing else. I get to go back in about 6 months for the new immigrant integration crap that Sarkozy passed into law recently. Usually it’s for new arrivals, but since I will be getting my first vie privée et familiale carte de séjour, I will have to do it too regardless of how long I’ve already been in France. Yippee.

So now my question is – what does one do with two x-rays of one’s chest? Start making a Halloween costume for next year?

Christmas Spirit

By   December 10, 2007

So France doesn’t go crazy with Christmas decorations like the US does, so I’ve been having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year. We finally bought some decorations this weekend so I feel a little better. Garland (guirlande), lights (guirlande électrique), card (carte) from Teresa, poinsettia plant from Jessica, and Joyeux Noël banner!

I also put snowman (bonhomme de neige) stickers on the windows that the cat constantly tries to attack, and there’s a wreath (couronne) and stocking (bas or botte) in the kitchen. Sadly, we have no Christmas tree (sapin de Noël). At least, not yet!

School & Public Transportation Vocabulary

By   December 6, 2007

un débrayage – short stoppage in work, not necessarily caused by a strike. Can include short protests against something that cannot be changed, complete with speeches that cannot be heard over the noise of uninterested students happy to have an excuse to miss class. Also the cause of unexpected trous in one’s schedule (see below).

un trou – break or pause between classes in one’s schedule. For the lucky, they only last one or two hours. For the unlucky, they can last between 3 and 6 hours, such as was the case on Tuesday when I had a huge trou between 11 am and 5 pm and again on Thursday between 10 am and 3 pm.

un conseil de classe – staff meetings for a certain class, usually held after school. Teachers are obviously required to complain about these meetings regardless of when, where or how often they take place during the school year.

perturbé – adjective used to describe the state of public transportation during a strike. Supposedly means disturbed in English, but more commonly means non-existent, as in, “there’s no way you’re getting to work/school/anywhere today because SNCF workers are angry at Sarkozy.”

un autocar – a bus (but not un bus; confusing, I know!) that goes from city to city rather than within one city. Also used as an alternative to trains during a strike and during early hours when train stations are not yet open. Autocars run late 98% of the time, so they are a legitimate reason for being late to your 8 am class.

les horaires du service hiver – train schedule that is valid from December to July (because apparently winter goes until July?), characterized by the most inconvenient times that will force me to arrive to work either 10 minutes late, or 2 hours early.

Why I don’t prefer the US to France: High cost of university

By   December 5, 2007

Anyone else think this is unfair? I took a class in the spring term (May/June), so my loan went into deferment, supposedly until 2010 – the year my university listed as my graduation date. But that wasn’t correct since I graduated just after that spring term in August 2007. (And I thought loans were automatically in deferment until 6 months after graduation??)

Dear Direct Loan Borrower,
Thank you for your inquiry regarding your Direct Loan. Prior to October 11, 2007, we listed your separation date from Oakland University as December 31, 2010. However, our records show that on October 11, 2007, the college notified us that your last date of attendance as a half-time student was June 27, 2007 and not October 11, 2010 as they originally certified. We updated your separation date to June 27, 2007. Because this action would have created a past due status for your loan, we applied a forbearance to your loan to postpone the payments due for July 21, 2007 through October 21, 2007.

They didn’t even give me the option to pay the bills from July to October; they just automatically put my loan into forbearance (which also expired immediately), and that tacked on $122 in interest! So I have to pay extra because my college didn’t report the correct graduation date?

Can someone with student loan experience explain this to me? I never had student loans as an undergrad, and I only borrowed for the last year of my graduate degree, so this is all new to me.

English Teaching Assistantships in Europe for American citizens

By   December 2, 2007

Information and applications for the English teaching assistantships in Europe can be found at the following sites. You should have an intermediate knowledge of the language (French, Spanish, or German) but this really isn’t enforced for the French program…

English Assistant in France

Americans / Canadians / Australians / New Zealanders / CIEP Site

Teach English conversation 12 hours a week in Primary or Secondary schools for a monthly stipend of 780 €. Medical insurance & paid holidays. Contracts of 6, 7, or 9 months, all beginning October 1. Application deadline for US: February 2009. About 1,600 posts available. / Canada: March 2009 – 300 posts / Australia: November 23, 2008 – 80 posts / New Zealand: January 2009 – 60 posts (Read my Assistants Guide if you want to know what the program is like.)

English Assistant in Spain

Americans or Canadians

Almost the same as the French program, but monthly stipend of 700 € and contract of 8 months (October – May). About 1,200 posts available.

English Assistant in Austria


Monthly stipend of 977 € and contract of 8 months (October – May). Must already have Bachelor’s degree. This assistantship is administered by the Fulbright Commission, so only 120 posts are available. Application for 2009-10 will be available November 15, 2008, and deadline is February 15, 2009.

English Assistant in Germany


Monthly stipend of 700 € and contract of 9 months (September – June). Must already have Bachelor’s degree. Also administered by Fulbright, so only 70 posts available and highly competitive.

English Assistant in Finland

Americans (no knowledge of Finnish required)

No application or deadline; just send resume and cover letter. Applicants with teaching experience receive priority. Contracts from late August until May; salary will be sufficient to cover living expenses.

As if I didn’t have enough of a headache already…

By   December 1, 2007

I still haven’t got my website back online, but I think I found a new host. Now if only they would hurry up and send me my login details so I can upload files…

Today’s drama is about my student loans, however. They were put into deferment in May when I went back to school (took my final thesis class), and I was told I didn’t have to start paying again until December 2010. Oh, but guess what happened 6 months later? The “forbearance” on my loans expired and not only do I have to start paying them back right now, but I accrued over $100 in interest! ARGH!!!! My loans have never ever been in forbearance, and now I have to figure out how to fix this problem that someone else made. Sometimes I seriously hate being an adult.

Are people trying to kill me by stressing me out?